Macungie Mayor Considers Monitoring Police With GPS

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We’ve reported police use of GPS tracking devices to keep tabs on criminals here at RMT in the past, but GPS used to keep tabs on the cops? This is exactly what Mayor Rick Hoffman of Macungie, PA wants to do. He introduced the idea at a recent council meeting, explaining that the devices would be placed in officers’ cars as a way to monitor where the officer is at all times, and keep track of their speed while on patrol. Hoffman raised money to cover expenses for the first year of the potential program, and requested funds from the council for the following two years. A decision has not yet been reached.

The service for the GPS tracking devices are estimated to cost $1,192 per year. The physical GPS devices themselves would cost nothing, provided Macungie commits to a three-year contract with a grand total of $3,576. Police Chief Edward Harry, Jr. states that GPS devices similar to the proposed units are already installed in the cruisers. Information collected from these devices is transmitted to the Lehigh County Communications Center which allows them to locate any police car at any time, allowing dispatchers to determine which officer is closest to respond to a call swiftly. Officers also benefit from the devices offering maps and even locations of fire hydrants and transformers.

Harry did not say whether or not he agreed with Hoffman’s proposal, stating “we’ll go with whatever the council decides.” An attorney for the police officers affected by this proposal has demanded to know Hoffman’s intentions, wondering what he plans to do with the data he collects with the GPS devices. He feels state labor laws require that negotiations take place prior to the devices’ installation.

According to Councilman David Boyko, the device won’t show where the officer is, just his or her vehicle. If the officer is responding to a residence and at their front door, on foot patrol, or taking a bathroom break, the device will not relay this information. Boyko also said that if the devices worked well for the cops, they should consider installing them on borough-owned work vehicles as well.

Resident Pat Stasko disagrees with the plan. “I think this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t trust your motives; you have a vindictive feeling towards the police department.” Business owner Tim Romig agrees, referring to the devices as “spy toys.” Residents’ major problem with the installation of the devices lies in the fact that the devices are already installed and being monitored on a county level. Why monitor on a local level as well?

Hoffman’s reasoning: the numerous calls from residents he receives every day to report an officer speeding or spending too much time in one location. “You can find out where the officers are, how long they’ve been there, and if they’ve been speeding. It’s a managerial tool,” he said. Council President Jean Nagle points out it benefits the officers as well. “It’s for the officers’ protection too, that way there’s no question.” The Council has tabled the request in order to research it further.

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Khristen Foss

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